Notebook: Thompson stayed at Southeast despite "no promises" from her coach

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Notes from Saturday's matchup between Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Tennessee-Martin in the women's Ohio Valley Conference final:

Rekha Patterson is glad OVC Tournament MVP Tesia Thompson didn’t bolt when the Redhawks coach spoke bluntly to her three years ago. “I told (Tesia) I wouldn’t promise her a starting position, she’d have to work to be in the lineup.” As a Top 100 recruit from Hamilton High School in Memphis, Tennessee, the 5-foot-10 junior guard had options. Some other university would have made her a guarantee, but Patterson took a tough line. “She could have said, ‘Nah, I need more than that,’ but (Tesia) bought into our vision,” said Patterson.

Fans at the Show Me Center will occasionally shout out, “Go Granny!” when co-captain Carrie Shepherd steps back and hits a shot from beyond the arc. Shephard has a school-record 95 treys in 2019-20, the most in the OVC this season – two of those 3-pointers coming in Sunday’s final against No. 1-seed UT-Martin. Carrie, the most diminutive of the Redhawks at 5-foot-4, is also the oldest Redhawk. She will turn 25 on November 20. Far from being offended, the redshirt senior from Steele, Missouri, embraces the appellation. As she stood watching teammates cut down the net at the Ford Center, Shephard was heard to remark, “Yeah, Granny’s got her kids!”

High up in the OVC food chain is a Southeast grad. Kyle Schwartz, the league’s Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Communications, was responsible for all media at the March 4-7 basketball championships in Evansville, Indiana. Schwartz, 41, earned a master’s degree at SEMO in 2002 and worked as a graduate assistant for then-sports information director Joe Hines. After a four-year stint with Northern Colorado University, Schwartz was hired in 2006 by the OVC.

Longtime followers of the sports pages may remember the term “sports information department,” which the OVC no longer uses and neither does Southeast. The new term, “Strategic Communications,” is “a better fit for all the media platforms being used today,” said Schwartz.

Southeast athletics director Brady Barke says there are relatively few opportunities to bring national and international attention to a university – but success in sports is one of those ways. Barke said following Taelour Pruitt’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave Southeast the opening round win Thursday against Tennessee Tech, the power of athletics to bring a spotlight to SEMO was illustrated. “After Pruitt’s shot was on (ESPN’s) Sports Center, I heard from a friend living in Australia, congratulating me,” Barke said.

The OVC women’s tournament began in 1982 and except for a single year in Kentucky (2002) claimed Tennessee as its championship venue until 2018. Two years ago, the tourney moved to Evansville, Indiana. The OVC recently inked a deal to continue the relationship. The postseason basketball tourney will continue to be played at the Ford Center through 2023.

UT-Martin, with its 67-47 loss Saturday to Southeast, has now failed in three consecutive tries to win the OVC crown. In 2018 and 2019, the Skyhawks fell to eventual champion Belmont in the final. UT-Martin won the tournament four years in a row, 2011-2014.

Each year since 2015, the OVC has named 12 “legends” from its member schools to be recognized with signage and announcements. At last weekend’s tournament, Derek Winans (Southeast 2001-2005) was one of the dozen honorees. Winans was considered an ironman for the then-Indians, starting 101 consecutive games – the school record until 2014. In a four-year career at SEMO, Winans collected back-to-back all-OVC honors in 2002 and 2003 and was a first-team academic All-American in 2005. Winans is a member of the SEMO Athletics Hall of Fame and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association HOF.

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